Saturday, December 26, 2009

.....And Edith Wolford is Complete.
At some point, I may even get it framed, but it'll be a while.
So that's my oldest WIP finished. Everything else was started in 2009, and hopefully they'll all be finished sometime in 2010. I treated myself to some new stash today (should be here in a week or two), and have a few new starts in the works (not that I need any new ones just at the moment!)

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Getting Close

I'm getting some stitching in, in between baking and cleaning and cooking...

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Cinnamon Sugared Nuts

1 lb pecans
1 lb almonds
2 egg whites
2 tablespoons water
2 cups sugar OR bulk Splenda
1 1/2 Tablespoons cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoons salt

for the daring: 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper (will give it a nice afterburn)

Preheat oven to 275 degrees. Stir together the sugar, cinnamon, salt, and cayenne in a large bowl. Beat the egg whites and water together until light and frothy, and toss with the almonds and pecans. Drain, then stir the nuts into the cinnamon sugar mixture. Spread out on two baking sheets. Bake for one hour, stirring every 15-20 minutes.

**This recipe is low carb if you use Splenda or other sugar substitute instead of sugar

I made about 6 lbs of this yesterday, so figured I'd share.

2 lb dark chocolate, chopped finely
4 oz milk chocolate, chopped finely

Holiday "sprinkles"

To make fruit & nut bark: 4 cups of dry roasted nuts and dried fruits. For example, dried cherries and almonds, raisins and peanuts, cranberries and pecans, etc.

To make pretzel bark: 6 cups mini pretzels, "lightly broken up" but still in big chunks. Some other options to add in: peanut butter or butterscotch chips, toffee bits, nuts, etc.

If using nuts, toast them for full flavor. Heat the oven up to 350 degrees. Spread the nuts out on a baking sheet in a single layer. Turn the oven off, and put the nuts in for about 10 minutes, shaking the pan halfway through. Cool.

Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper and set aside.

To melt the chocolate: put 2/3 of the dark chocolate in a microwave safe bowl. Nuke on 30 second increments at 50% power, stirring at every stop. When the chocolate is mostly melted but not perfectly smooth, remove from microwave and add remaining 1/3 reserved chocolate. Stir until chocolate is melted and smooth.

Stir in add-in's of choice, and spread out on parchment lined cookie sheet.

Melt the milk chocolate using the above method. Scrape into a plastic baggie and push chocolate into one corner. Snip a small corner off the bag, and drizzle the milk chocolate on top of the chocolate bark. Sprinkle with holiday jimmies.

Let set firm (3-4 hours). Using a sharp serrated knife, cut into squares.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

One bud down, one to go

A lot of confetti stitching left...ack!

12:50 and still snowing
So far, I've made french vanilla ice cream base (should run it through the ice cream maker later today), about half of a chocolate mousse pie (the crust is done and the mousse filling is in), and a lovely crockpot full of beuof bourgignon.
Snow! 7:30 am

This is our back deck as of 7:30 this morning - that's my beloved grill that's getting buried. I guess we're not having steak tonight, eh? I'll post a few more pictures throughout the day.

We're on the eastern shore of Maryland (mid-shore area) so apparently we're not getting hit as hard as those on the other side of the Chesapeake Bay.

My plans today? Work on a certain iris we all know and love, mixed in with doing some of my Christmas baking (pies, cakes, cookies, chocolate work), AND a crack at a Julia Child recipe for dinner tonight.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Ultimate WIP - DONE

I graduate high school in 1989, and started college that fall. A few years later, for a variety of reasons, I dropped out.

In late 2004, I gave up my life in Pennsylvania, moved home with my parents to give college another try.

In spring 2005, I started Chesapeake College (2 year community college. I served as President of Alpha Sigma Pi, our chapter of Phi Theta Kappa (once a Kappan, always a Kappan!) I graduated from Chesapeake College with an AAS in May 2007.

I transfered to the University of Maryland Eastern Shore that fall. Qualified for and joined the Golden Key Honour Society and Delta Sigma Pi Honor Society.

I finished my LAST exam today, and will graduate with a BS tomorrow.

20 years in the making: My biggest WIP.


Tuesday, December 15, 2009

New Mirabilia


Love her, especially the dress, but I may have to take up a collection to buy her a sandwich.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Seventeen shades of purple and blue....
(And seven of green, just in case you were wondering)
The main flower is finished; just two buds to do and some more backstitching.

Friday, December 11, 2009


Mystic Stitch is having a buy 2 get 2 free pattern sale until December 15th.

Heaven and Earth Designs is currently having a 30% off sale on their website through December 21st.


Slow Roasted Chicken

I make this recipe at least once every 10 days or so - it's delicious, easy, and inexpensive. It's all about method - the chicken comes out extremely moist and fall-off-the-bone tender.

Start with bone-in skin-on chicken parts - either a family pack of thighs (usually about 10), chicken breast quarters (4 or 5), or a whole chicken cut up into individual parts. Rinse parts and pat dry. Spray two pyrex baking dishes with cooking spray and spread the parts out - it's fine if they are touching but they need to be in one layer and not overlapping each other.

Now you need about one cup of herby marinade. You can make your own with an oil/acid/herb mix, or you can cheat like I often do and use McCormick's Zesty Herb dry packet marinade with oil, vinegar and water added to it - I typically add extra oil/water/vinegar to bring it up to one cup or so of marinade but the one packet of seasoning is plenty. If you want to make your own, a mix of olive oil, lemon juice & zest or white wine, garlic, salt, pepper, rosemary, thyme and sage is great.

Pour the marinade over the chicken parts evenly, and cover the baking dishes tightly with foil. Bake at 300 degrees for one hour without disturbing. After an hour, turn up the oven temperature to 425 degrees, and uncover the chicken. Baste with the accumulated pan juices/marinade. Roast for another 40 minutes or so, basting 2-3 more times, until the skin of the chicken is golden brown. Enjoy!

Monday, December 07, 2009

Backstitching Details

So I decided to go for the gusto, and try to get Edith Wolford finished before the end of the year. It's the only project that I started prior to 2009 that I haven't finished yet, plus I know I can get it done.

I finished the lower petal and did the backstitching on it as well as some of the stems, which really makes the folds in the petals pop.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Mermaid of Atlantis

I thought I was starting Mermaid of Atlantis fresh last week but apparently I jumped the gun a couple of months ago when I first kitted her up. When I opened up her box to get her started, quite a bit of the "core" of the body was done - just two colors, but it gave me a nice place to work off of this week to get to this point.

This is one very bling-y mermaid - tons of metallics and beads, and a few Waterlillies thrown in just in case she wasn't fancy enough. She's also rather petite, which means she'll be a quick stitch compared to some of the other Mirabilias. The fabric is Picture This Plus 32 count Fathom.

I have started on some of the metallics but I'll wait until all of the stitching is done to add the beads. I prefer to work on Q-snaps, and I won't put the snaps over beaded areas. MoA is small enough I can just bead her on a large Qsnap frame; for larger projects, I use the dreaded scroll frame (NOT my favorite - they never hold the fabric tightly enough).

I only got one Waterlillies Espresso, so I'm probably not going to have enough of that for her. It's not my favorite Waterlillies (it was on Fairy Idyll as well), so I will probably change up the border a bit rather than ordering more.

I have a little bit of a dilemma. It's that time of the year - I've started thinking back about what projects I've started and what projects I've finished this year. I've been doing really well with rotation stitching the last month, but there's a part of me wondering if I wouldn't rather work on something that might be able to be finished during the year. There are three candidates that could feasibly be finished over the next month. Hmmmm....we shall see. Part of me NEEDS another big finish - I haven't had one since May. May!!! But the balance of that is that I have quite a few more projects going than I normally do - seven, rather than my usual three or four, and most of them have significant progress on them.

We'll see ~ it's been a rough couple weeks of school so it's a bit of indulgence that I suspect I could use.

You may have notice I've been playing around with the set up of the blog a bit lately. I like the labels, since it can help find specific posts. It does make me laugh that there's lots of small labels but a HUGE Mirabilia one LOL

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Ham, Gruyere and Tomato Quiche (low carb)

(you've figured out what we had for Thanksgiving, right?)

Omitting the traditional crust not only reduces the carbs significantly, but it also makes preparation much easier. The "filling" will brown nicely on the top and bottom, and comes out of the pan easily with the help of a little cooking spray.

In a large bowl, beat 6 eggs with 1/2 cup of heavy cream, 1 teaspoon of thyme, 1 teaspoon of garlic powder, 1/2 teaspoon of sage, and 1/2 teaspoon of fresh ground pepper.

Spray an 8 inch glass pie pan well with cooking spray. Mince 4 oz or so of ham and toss with 4 oz finely shredded gruyere cheese in the pie pan. Pour egg mixture over ham and cheese. Slice one tomato crosswise, and arrange tomato slices on top of quiche. Sprinkle 1/4 cup of parmesan cheese over top of quiche, then add another light sprinkle of seasonings evenly over the top: garlic powder, thyme, sage, and pepper.

Bake at 350 for approximately 40-45 minutes, until the quiche is browned nicely on top and a knife comes out clean when inserted into the middle. Let cool 10-15 minutes before slicing.

Serve warm with a side salad. Try a leftover slice reheated in the microwave for a quick breakfast.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Got Ham Bone?

Creamy Ham & Cauliflower Soup (low carb)

Make ham stock: Put the bone in a stock pot with large-cut mire poix: 4 ribs celery, 2 carrots, 1 onion. Add a few cloves of garlic and 10-12 peppercorns, just lightly crushed. Cover the bone and veggies with a combination of 1/2 water and 1/2 low salt chicken broth. Cover and simmer for about 3 hours. Strain out vegetables and discard. Pick any leftover meat off the bone and shred.

Saute one diced onion in a little olive oil until transluscent. Add 2 quarts ham stock (freeze remaining or double recipe). Add 2 pounds of frozen cauliflower (or fresh if you prefer) and 2 teaspoons of thyme. Cover and simmer for about half an hour until the cauliflower is mushy. Using an immersion blender (or remove to a food processor), puree the vegetables until smooth. Stir in one cup of heavy cream, 4 ounces of shredded sharp cheddar cheese, leftover ham and pepper to taste.

If you have any extra fresh herbs hanging around after the holiday, feel free to substitute them for the thyme. If you don't feel like making ham stock, this is great with just canned low salt chicken broth.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Black Friday at ABC Stitch Therapy

ABCStitch is having a great sale - 20% off everything until midnight on Saturday. Ack!

(yeah, ok, I ordered a little something...because obviously 7 large in progress projects aren't enough)

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Chatelaine's Knotgarden

Moving along nicely. I really like how it's coming out so far.

At some point, I need to start filling in the specialty stitches (eyelets, etc) but I'll probably wait until I'm done most of the cross stitching, then mount on a scroll frame.

I was supposed to work on Midsummer Night's Fairy next, but when I checked the pattern, I realized I hadn't enlarged it. I'm finding, especially later in the evening, that the Mirabilia patterns tend to run a little small, even under the Ott-Lite. I need to go make a working copy and blow it up to 125% or so. I don't go out the weekend after Thanksgiving because of the shopping madness, so that will have to wait.

So because of this, I get to start Mermaid of Atlantis, also a Mirabilia. She's a petite mermaid - so much so she's fitting nicely on a leftover piece of Picture This Plus Fathom that I'm also doing Sleeping Beauty on. Since the Fathom was quite expensive, I'm happy I could use the leftover piece. MoA has a ton of beads, metallics & Waterlilies threads - so you know how much that can add up to, so it's nice to be able to cut back a little on the fabric costs as well.

I do so love starting a new project - almost as much as finishing one.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Fourteen Shades of Orange and Yellow

So here's Edith Wolford after a week of working on her. And yes - there are FOURTEEN shades of orange and yellow there...ack! I had to card up all of the floss in order to keep the cut strands straight - once I cut floss, I rewrap on the card. Clearly stitching grid by grid is really working for this piece - it's moving along quite quickly now. I really love the orange and purples together - where else but in nature could you get away with that?

The folds on the iris petals will be a lot more distinct once they are backstitched.

Up next in rotation: Back to Knotgarden from Chatelaine!

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Edith Wolford by Silver Lining

So this is officially my oldest WIP, not that I have completed very much of it. It's a lovely purple and orange iris - you can start to make out a petal on the right - from Silver Lining, which does the most beautiful detailed roses, irises, and other flowers. I did Dream Lover, a blue iris, a couple of years ago, and I have about a dozen other patterns.

I got very frustrated working on Edith not long after I started because many of the colors are very similar (the orange in the picture is about 12 different oranges), and the center part in particular (where I started) is mostly confetti-style stitches. I ended up packing it up and putting it away in 2008.

When I started working on Meeting on the Turret Stairs , I had to adjust my stitching style to accomodate how the pattern is basically all confetti stitching. The only way you can effectively keep track of where you are is by working one 10x10 square at a time, one page at a time. I am going to apply that way of stitching to Edith Wolford instead of just trying to follow how the colors flow.

As you can see, I've started squaring off the top of a page (the straight line of stitching) by filling in the 10x10 graph squares around what I'd already stitched. I think it should work out a lot more smoothly this time.

The fabric is an off white 32 count lugana.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Royal Holiday by Mirabilia

Royal Holiday is sometimes refered to as Christmas Queen, and is done in the style of Mirabilia's seasonal Queens - she's more of a companion piece than one of the series.
I started her a week ago; it's been a rather stressful week so I've been stitching when I can because it really helps clear my head. She's being stitched on cream Belfast linen rather than the antique white that I used for the other Queens; I think that it will contrast all the white in the piece nicely.
I still have to order some of the beads and the metallic threads, but as I don't do them until the end, I have plenty of time. I am omitting the Whisper thread used for her cloak, because I really dislike working with it. I'll either be using straight DMC white, or I may blend the DMC white with a metallic floss.
She's done for this rotation, and will come up again in a few weeks. Up next: Edith Wolford by Silver Lining, which is a beautiful purple and orange iris.
And yet another project...

This is a shot of the edging of an afghan that I'm working on. The "body" is a repeated fan design, and I'm slowly but surely working the fan edging right now. It's done in Red Heart soft white yarn, which makes for a nice warm throw that also washes well.
This is where I got to on Sleeping Beauty before I put her away so I could rotate onto another project.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Attempting to Rotate Projects

I've never been one to work on projects on a schedule per se - I just work on one project until I'm a bit bored of it, and then work on something else (preferably something I've already started). My list of in-progress projects, kitted projects (not started but most of the materials put together) and wish list projects (ones I want to start soon but probably don't have more than just the pattern) has really grown exponentially.

Given how long that list is now, I'm going to try to rotate projects, working on it a week at a time, and then changing to the next one. I don't know if it'll make them go faster, but I always feel guilty if I haven't worked on one for a long time (Knotgarden...Midsummer Night's Fairy....and most especially Edith Wolford).

So we'll see how that works. I'm going to include two of the projects that I have kitted up - Royal Holiday and Mermaid of Atlantis, both Mirabilias. I also have My Sweet Rose by Artecy kitted, but that can wait a little longer.

I tidied out my stitching bag (a big old LL Bean tote bag) today, and realized that "Meeting on the Turret Stairs" was further along than the previous picture, so here's where I'm at with that. I'm almost finished page 5 of 9 pages.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Sleeping Beauty is starting to emerge....

I'm going to need to make a run for more floss soon - the purples and the greens are running out fast!

There's also a surprising amount of white in the piece; you don't notice it as much with the shading but it's definately there. As usual, the drapes of fabric are coming out great.

I'm getting started on the dress - there's so much going on with the swirling colors (pale greens and pale blues) as well as the beading pattern over it.


I come from an English background, and as such, no furniture surface was "complete" without a lace doily on it. Not long after learning how to crochet with yarn, I started playing around with crocheted lace. These are two recently finished projects that will be Christmas gifts. Each is about 15 inches in diameter.

Both are made out of #10 crochet cotton in white (and both are badly in need of a bit of starch and an iron LOL). Patterns are from my favorite crochet magazine, Magic Crochet (out of print for several years now).

Sunday, October 25, 2009

An update on "Meeting on the Turret Stairs"

This was where I was in early August. As much as I like the picture itself, the confetti stitching is a bit frustrating at times. I've still been picking at it and making progress though.

My neighbors celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary last week, so my folks asked me to make them a cake for the community meeting. This is what I came up with:

It's a vanilla bean cake with a chocolate mousse filling, chocolate swiss meringue buttercream, and a dark chocolate drizzle across the top of each layer. The tiers are 8 inch, 6 inch, and 4 inch. I did a few tuxedo dipped strawberries to finish it off; it's been over a year since I did any flowers in buttercream/fondant/gumpaste, so I opted to do the berries instead, since I didn't have a lot of spare time to play with the flowers. I packed up the top layer for the anniversary couple to take home, then served the other two layers - not surprisingly, most of it went. The few extra slices got sent home with people. I really had fun making it.

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Crystal Symphony Framed!

Although she looks a little monocromatic with the grey matting and the pewter frame, she'll be hanging in a room that has a lot of roses and pinks in it, so it really picks up the roses on her dress. As always, the picture doesn't do her justice.

Slow progress on Sleeping Beauty

Slowly but surely! I don't seem to be getting very much done on her, but she's coming along. Some of the stitching is quite close to the background color so you can't see it very well on this picture, but it'll all come together.

Monday, June 29, 2009

On vacation!

Yes, I know - I have been quiet this month. I'm away until later this week, spending a little time with the boyfriend, who lives in another state.

I'll have some new pictures up towards the end of the week. My mom had Crystal Symphony framed, and that came out quite nice - we went with a single grey mat and a pewter-ish frame. I've also been making progress on Sleeping Beauty, and she's starting to look good. She's a large project and just going to take some time.

I'm also trying to plan vacation for later in July - we're still not sure where we're going, but we know that it'll be about a 5 day road trip. So far, Vermont or Virginia are the primary contenders.

Monday, June 15, 2009

New Mirabilia: Mediterranean Mermaid


I really like her - I'll probably get the pattern to add to the collection, but I don't think I'll be doing her anytime soon since I have so many projects started or kitted up (including a mermaid).

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

So, I'm done stalking the mailman!

My latest stash order came in. I got two more Chatelaine Mandala Gardens: Watergarden and Alhambra Garden. I want to do those along with Knotgarden as my next set. There's a few more gardens in this particular set, but I don't know if I want to do all of them. I'm doing them on antique white 28 count lugana. I switched to 28 count because of the beaded areas - I think that the beads sit better on 28 count than my usual 32, and I chose antique white lugana because with such complex designs, I prefer a simpler background.

I also got the beads and metallics that I needed to finish kitting up Knotgarden and Mermaid of Atlantis. Obviously, I've been working on Knotgarden already. MoA is now ready to go; I may work on her when I go on vacation later this summer because it's a smaller piece and easier to tote around. MoA will be worked on the end piece of the fat half of PtP Fathom lugana that I'm working Sleeping Beauty on.

Project Updates

More progress on Knotgarden - this is the upper left corner.

To keep straight which end is up, I've done a hemstitch across the top of the fabric in green thread, and the rest of the hemstitching is in white. Since the fabric is a 28 count lugana, the hemstitching also prevents fraying - I find lugana is particularly prone to this.

I'm leaning more and more towards using DMC floss instead of buying the varigated silks for some of the specialty stitches. I may buy the ones to use in the borders, but some of them are very sparingly used. If I subsitute, I'll use floss colors that are already within the pattern.

Sleeping Beauty is back in rotation. I'm just working my way down some of the lavender bedding. I'm debating about doing the hands and face over 1 - I like the look of it, but the actual stitching (especially on a darker background) can be a bit frustrating.

Sleeping Beauty has a bit of a history with me. I first attempted to do her back in the mid-90's, but I had never done a Mirabilia nor had I ever worked on linen (or any over 2) before. I saw the pattern at a LNS and just loved it, and splurged on the materials. Not long after I started, I gave it up - I kept making mistakes and having to frog, and all those frustrating things you do when you really do not know what you're doing. I don't know what happened to what I'd worked on - probably ditched it. About a year later, I was determined that I was going to learn to stitch on linen, did some research to learn some of the ins and outs, and ended up doing a much smaller project - a teacup that I still have - and I've never looked back.

I still love Sleeping Beauty, and am very happy to be back working on her now. Such a gorgeous piece! Thanks to Sandy on the Mirabilia yahoo group for helping me out with the fabric choice.

There are so many Mirabilias that I've fallen in love with over the years - that I still love them 10+ years later is very gratifying, and inspiring me to work through some of those favorites. The Queens, Fairy Idyll, now Sleeping Beauty and Midsummer Night's Fairy. It's really become kind of a bucket list. Rose of Sharon is another classic that I'll need (yes - need) to do, but I'm going to change the dress colors as I'm not overly fond of the yellow/blue she's wearing. I'm leaning towards a lavender/cream combination instead. I don't have a lot of embroideries where lavender is featured, so that'll make a nice change. I think that color combo on a cream background will give sort of a faded/antiqued overall finish which is appropriate for the piece.

There's some other future plans under the "Wish List" section to the left of the blog - just for fun.

I'm stalking my mailman for an order I placed with Nordic Needle...not that I need it anytime soon, but you know how that goes :-)

Friday, May 29, 2009

Crystal News

Just a quick note: Crystal Symphony went in for framing today. She's going to get a medium gray mat and an antique-style pewter frame. We should have her back in about 10 days, and I'll post pictures then.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Knotgarden progress

The great thing about working on geometric patterns is that they do move along fairly quickly.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

And now for something completely different...

I got Chatelaine's Knotgarden started this week. I'm working it on 28 count antique white lugana. I thought the beads would sit better on the 28 count rather than the 32 count, and with the eyelets that are part of the design, it may come out more evenly on the lugana rather than my usual linen.

I'm debating about using the hand dyed flosses (I'd be buying Waterlilies) and substituting a similar DMC floss instead. We'll see - I have a long way to go before I get that far!

Sunday, May 17, 2009

And she's finished...

There isn't a square inch on Crystal Symphony that doesn't have beads - it's not quite as obvious on the photograph as it is when you see it up close. As you can see, I opted to leave off the frame and chandelier - there's so much going on with all of the beading that I thought it was overkill.

As it turned out, I did have enough Magnifica beads - there were all of five leftover. Whew! Talk about cutting it close.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Beadwork Teaser

Just a close up of some of the beadwork that I've been doing on Crystal Symphony

I'm going to be short on some of the black Magnifica beads, so I'm going to have to do a little shopping so I can finish her up.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

2 skeins of white later....

While it may not look much different from the earlier picture, I've actually managed to fill in all the white on the dress - it took two whole skeins of white floss. Ack! I also got most of the backstitching on the dress finished.

I may actually be able to get Crystal completed soon.

Saturday, May 09, 2009

Full Circle

I first learned to cross stitch before I was 10 years old, and have been doing it on and off ever since then. There's been some periods in my life where I've done more and I've done less. For various reasons, I really wasn't stitching much between about 2002 and 2008 - I did a few projects here and there, but not very much.

I'd wanted to get back to stitching, so after finals were finished last spring semester, I visited a needlework store in PA (I am up there visiting my boyfriend often), and picked up the materials for Crystal Symphony (I had a choice of all of two Mirabilias that they had on hand LOL). So I got started back on Crystal (Nothing like a simple project to ease back into stitching, right?)

I worked on Crystal on and off during the summer, rotating with a filet crochet tablecloth (which I did finish):

It's worked from the center out, much like round lace doilies are worked. It's done with a size 10 thread, so it's a little thicker/more durable than a finer thread (the slightly thicker thread is also easier for me to work with - size 20 kills my hands and eyes). I've done so many afghans over the years (I learned how to crochet in the late 80's) that I rarely do them anymore - there's only so many I need :-). Extra lace pieces, however, are easy to store (and I end up giving away a lot of the smaller pieces).

A close up so you can see some of the detailing:

This is how far I got on Crystal Symphony before she got rotated out:

Crystal got bumped when I finally got the Mermaids of the Blue (Mirabilia patterns were a little tough to get last summer because of distribution reorganization). I really have not worked on her since - she didn't stand a chance once I started working on getting my Queens finished LOL.

With my finish of the Queens series last week, I've been kind of bumping around all week, deciding what direction to go in. I've been bouncing around projects this week trying but really haven't been able to settle into anyone. I ended up sitting down last night and spreading out all my WIPs and my kitted projects (an impressive pile, I must say) to basically work out what I should be focusing on for now.

Crystal is currently my oldest WIP, so I need to get back working on her for a while. I'm debating about simplifying the design, because I'm not thrilled with the chandelier at the moment. I may skip the frame entirely, or perhaps just leave that part out and lower the top edge of the frame. On the body, I have most of the colors filled in, and need to fill in a LOT of white, which will take a long time AND make it appear that I'm not progressing LOL. I was having trouble with her left arm (I did the flesh parts in over 1) so I frogged a chunk of that last night (ouch). I've since decided that over-1 just is not compatible with my eyes and my patience, so I won't be doing any more over-1's, but I'll have to finish up Crystal that way since it's nearly finished. As my official oldest WIP, I think I need to focus on getting her done.

There's also Edith Wolford, also started last summer, which has so little done that I haven't even bothered taking a picture LOL It's a beautiful purple and orange iris from Silver Lining, which I put aside because there's a lot of confetti stitching with very similar colors. I'm going to go back and start working it in 10x10 blocks (working off what I have already done), and I carded up all the floss last night so I can keep the cut floss on the cards as well to tell the colors apart better.

I'll no doubt work on some other projects as well, but I'm going to try to focus on getting these two finished this summer.

Friday, May 08, 2009

Floss Spree!

I had a little shopping spree at Michael's this week, thanks to a 20% off my order coupon. Since the cashiers have to ring up one skein of floss at a time, they must love me when I buy about 125 or so at once LOL

I got floss for:

Knotgarden - I started getting this kitted up with the floss; I also had a couple of packets of beads in my stash that I'll need. I still need to order more beads and Waterlilies floss. I confess - I also snuck over to the cross stitch store and got a piece of 28 count lugana for her.

Mermaid of Atlantis - I bought the Waterlilies for this the other week, and I'm going to do her on the leftover Fathom lugana from Sleeping Beauty. MoA is very petite for a Mirabilia (although very blinged out and detailed) so she actually fits - just barely - on that fabric AND it works for her. Again, still need beads and Kreinik for this (of which there are a LOT).

Royal Holiday - Yes, another Queen! I have a piece of 32 count cream linen leftover from doing Fairy Idyll earlier in the year, and that will work out nicely for RH. More stuff here to add to that massive specialty thread & bead order that's building.
Sneak Preview

Clearly I was going to start this sooner than later.

Just playing around with it for a few days, then I'll go back to working on one of the other WIPs.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

So, What's Next?

Now that the Queens are finished, I'm getting asked what's next for my cross stitch projects.

For the moment, I'm going to be giving a little TLC to some of my other works in progress. I'm currently working on "Meeting on the Turret Stairs" again, which is an Artecy cross stitch reproduction of the Burton painting. I'm working on an 18 count Aida for this - normally I don't use Aida but since there's none of the background showing it was a good choice.

And of course, there is Midsummer Night's Fairy, Crytal Symphony, and Edith Wolford to work on as well.

I will be starting Sleeping Beauty by Mirabilia soon. I've had her kitted up for several months, and it's been gnawing at me to get her going. I have a piece of PtP Fathom 32 count lugana for her; I trimmed it down last night, and there will be enough leftover to do Mermaid of Atlantis on as well. I also have My Sweet Rose from Artecy fully kitted, but I don't think I'll start that until Turret is finished.

I am going to be starting another series as well. Although I love my Mirabilias, I want to do something very different from the ladies, so I've decided to do some of the Garden Mandalas from Chatelaine. I will probably not do all of them, but on the hit list are Knotgarden, Watergarden, Alhambra Garden and Misty Morning Vineyard. That should keep me busy for the next ten years, eh?

Monday, May 04, 2009

Five Weeks

I began low carbing again five weeks ago. Things that have changed:

- I no longer have to keep track of my water. I just always have a mug of it and have no problem drinking about 90 -100 oz a day.

- My barely-fitting jeans now not only fit WITHOUT a muffin top, they're verging on baggy

- I automatically eat what I'm supposed to without thinking much about it other than to plan meals ahead, without feeling deprived, without jonesing for stuff I shouldn't have.

- The chip addiction has been broken - I no longer prowl around hunting for bad stuff to snack on, especially when I really do not need a snack. If I want a snack, I have a deviled egg or some cheese and then I'm done.

- I have successfully eaten out at least twice a week the whole time. I don't stress over it - I just make sure I go to places that I know I can find something appropriate.

- When I've had a rough day and feel the need to treat myself, I don't think to treat myself with chocolate or a donut. It's a new paperback book or some cross stitch supplies or some really great body lotion.

- I eat far more veggies on a regular basis than I did previously

- I know I have to get on the scale tomorrow morning, and that's a good thing, rather than something to be dreaded

Sunday, May 03, 2009

All Four Queens - Together At Last
All the "Snooty Ladies" hanging out together - finally!
All Four Queens - Together at Last

Spring Queen Mirabilia #34, released 1998. Started and completed in 1999.

This is where it all started. When I started Spring Queen in 1999, Autumn Queen had not yet been released. From the very beginning, I always intended on completing the whole series of seasonal Queens. Although I completed her 10 years ago, I never had her framed because I wanted to wait for all of the Queens to be completed so they could be framed to match. She is done on an antique white 32 count linen.

Autumn Queen, Mirabilia #45, released 1999. Started in 1999 and completed in 2008.

Ah, Autumn Queen...my albatross. I started her in late 1999, and worked on her until she was nearly complete. I put her aside (probably to work on another project, although I couldn't tell you what that project was), and ended up not long after going into a fairly dry spell for cross stitch. I did two or three projects (no Miras) during that time, but wasn't consistent with it until early 2008 and I started working on Miras again. I completed Mermaids of the Deep Blue in September, and decided to start working on Winter Queen, because I still wanted to complete the series. In October, I took a break on Winter Queen, and decided I really needed to finish Autumn. Fortunately, I'd bagged her up along with all of her threads and beads, so after 8 years, I was able to pick up where I'd left off. She was so far along it only took me two weeks (!!!) to complete her. I dislike using Wisper threads, so I just used white DMC for her cloak. Autumn Queen is done on 32 count linen - the fabric is slightly darker than the others, so I would say it's either cream or an antique off white.

Winter Queen, Mirabilia #13, released 1995. Started and completed in 2008.

I started Winter Queen in September of 2008. I already had the pattern and jumbo piece of linen that I'd bought to finish both Winter and Summer on ages ago, so it was easy to get her going. Overall, she was an easy stitching project. She went very smoothly and I managed to finish her just 2 or 3 days before Christmas. I replaced the Wisper thread that is part of her cloak for a combination of a white DMC metallic floss and regular white DMC floss. It gives her cloak a little extra sparkle. Winter Queen is completed on a 32 count antique white linen.

Summer Queen, Mirabilia #22, released 1996. Started in 2008 and completed in 2009.

And last but not least, Summer Queen. I started her in 2008 while I was still working on Winter Queen. I was getting a bit fed up with all of the blue and white and I just needed to stitch in other colors, so I spent about two weeks working on Summer's teal skirt. I took a Queen break after Winter, and played around with a couple other projects. In early March, I decided I really needed to get Summer (and thus the whole series) completed, and started working on her in earnest. I just finished all the beading yesterday. Yes, I omitted some of the rose petals that were falling around her - I like the cleaner look without them. I also omitted the short strand of beads that is next to the two longer drapes of beads. Summer Queen is stitched on 32 count antique white linen.


I've always wanted them to be framed to match - same style frame, same size. The mats will coordinate with the colors on the individual Queen, but will all be the same material so they go together. Framing will have to wait for a little while though - that's going to be a hefty bill!

Saturday, May 02, 2009

At Last....

Not only is Summer Queen finished, but I have FINALLY finished the entire seasonal Mirabilia Queens set. Only took me 10 years to do it!

More tomorrow...I'm exhausted.

I visiting Salty Yarns yesterday, since summer is on it's way and I usually won't go down to Ocean City during the tourist season. I wanted some of the specialty threads for Mermaid of Atlantis, by Mirabilia, which I am slowly but surely kitting up. There's quite a bit of specialty threads & beads for her, and I picked up the Caron Waterlilies hand dyed silk threads that I'll need for her.

And....I've fallen in love. Again. I've seen Chatelaine Designs mentioned in some of the online needlework groups that I belong to, but hadn't really seen any of their designs up close. Salty Yarns had two of the Mandalas.

I'm not sure what it is, but the designs utterly fascinate me. I've always liked Celtic knotwork, and from a distance, they remind me of that which is what caught my attention. The whole kaleidoscope effect is mesmerizing. However, when you look closer, there's SO much going on within the patterns. Really, really interesting. I ended up getting The Knotgarden, and am going to have to order The Watergarden sometime soon, because I'm not sure which one I like better.

The Mandalas are mostly cross stitch, but incorporate some other stitching methods - for example, Knotgarden has algerian eyes, rhodes stitches, and a few others. It also incorporates variegated hand dyed silk threads, seed beads, bugle beads, metallics, glass treasures, and DMC floss, so there will be a considerable investment in this piece (plus the pattern is pricey, plus linen). Ack! I'll have to just buy a few things at one time, so I can pretend it's not as expensive ;-).

For those who like instant gratification, you can buy patterns online through Chatelaine as pdf files via Paypal. Alternatively, Nordic Needle and ABC Stitch both carry some of the patterns.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Getting a Head

Neither Summer Queen nor Midsummer Night's Fairy are headless anymore.

I'm back focusing on getting Summer Queen finished. I'm also looming on the end of the semester at school, so I'm not sure how long it will be until she's finished. I have some stitching to finish (STILL filling in all that white!, plus finishing her hair), and then the beads and backstitching, so probably two weeks or more.

Midi has a face and hair now, and I've started on some of the metallics. All of the wings (a large part of the overall design) is Kreinik metallics, either alone or blended with floss. I finally got around to trying Thread Heaven to keep the metallics from being a total nightmare - what a difference!! Thread Heaven is basically a wax-consistency product that you run the thread through and it keeps them from fraying and otherwise driving the stitcher nuts. I'm actually annoyed at myself that I didn't try it sooner, but for sure, I won't be stitching metallics without it again. Midi has been placed on hiatus for a little while so I can finish up Summer Queen and probably spend some time working on other projects I have going.

An earlier picture of Midsummer Night's Fairy

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

New Mirabilia Released

"Circle of Friends" was released today ~ they remind me of her earlier "Maidens of the Seasons".

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

So I broke down....

...and started Midsummer Night's Fairy. I needed a little break from working on Summer Queen, and I truly intended to get back to one of my other (many!) WIPs for a couple of days. But you know how it goes - that bag of pristine linen and threads just called to me! So here's a couple of day's work. She's actually going very quickly right now, but there will be a LOT of metallic thread and bead work coming up. I finally got some Thread Heaven so I'll see if that helps with the metallics. Midsummer Night's Fairy is being done on 32 count Misty Blue belfast linen. It's darker than what the photo is showing.

Midsummer Night Fairy after the first evening.

No commment other than this was NOT intentional.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

This Week's Summer Queen
I had a good week on her, but I'm actually getting kind of burned out and a little bored. I'm going to put her away for a week or two, and work on something else for a bit :-)

Saturday, April 04, 2009

Store Review: Salty Yarns

I visited Salty Yarns for the first time. It's located on the Boardwalk in Ocean City, Maryland, between 8th and 9th Streets.

It's much bigger than I expected, and is it ever packed with stuff! And you all know the way to my heart - yes, they had tons of Mirabilias. It's been such a long time since I got to physically leaf through a big stack of Mirabilia patterns, which was great. I can always buy them online, but it's not quite the same, eh? They had a ton of patterns overall. They also had: a ton of fabrics, specialty threads, Sudberry boxes, scissors - just about everything to do with stitching you could think of.

If you look at their website (http://www.saltyyarns.com/), they also host stitching events and classes a couple of times a year. The upcoming stitcher's retreat is VERY tempting!

Predictably, I got a couple of Mirabilia patterns: Royal Holiday, Lilly of the Woods, and Mermaid of Atlantis. If I were someone who liked keeping a lot of stash, I could have gone nuts in there :-)

Overall I really liked Salty Yarns, and would recommend a visit if you're ever in the area or feel like a day trip to the beach.

Friday, April 03, 2009

Stich A Mirabilia Blog

I've joined the posters over at the Stitch a Mirabilia blog :-) It's a nifty blog that's been up since the beginning of the year, showing the different Mirabilias we're all working on. You can find it here: http://stitchamiriabilia.blogspot.com/. It's a very talented group, and I'm glad to be a part of it.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Disembodied Summer Queen Arms
...but at least she's starting to look more human than just teal swirls. She should have a head in a week or two with any luck.
This is getting exciting for me - it's been 10 years (10 years!!!) since I started Spring Queen, and it'll be nice to finally be finished the series.

Friday, March 27, 2009


I thought I'd do a little home brewed vanilla extract primer, because I seem to retype these instructions somewhat regularly.

So - I'm a foodgeek. I brew my own vanilla extract. Yes, you can make your own vanilla extract. It's easy, it's inexpensive after the initial investment, and it's really, really good, especially if you like to bake. Well ok, if you don't like to bake, this is utterly useless to you and you can skip the whole post :-)

First - there's vanilla beans. You've probably seen them at the grocery store, with one or two sad little dried beans stuffed into a glass jar for an outrageous price. Just leave them alone. You'll thank me.

Buy your beans - in bulk - online. I buy through eBay from Vanilla Products USA, usually about a half pound or so at a time. They're reasonably priced (go do a search - you'll see) and great quality - a totally different beast than what you find in a grocery store. You don't need to buy the highest quality beans - I generally buy the cheaper ones, and am quite happy with them.

There are two basic types of vanilla beans. Madagascar Bourbons are robust in flavor and have loads of seeds. They're great for just about anything you want vanilla for. Tahitians are more "floral" in flavor and have fewer seeds. I like the Tahitians better for things like creme anglaise, pastry cream, ice cream base, creme brulee, etc. It's a personal preference - as inexpensive as they are on eBay, get a few of each and play with your food.

To make your own vanilla extract, you need: Vanilla beans + booze + time.

So let's say you bought yourself a half pound of beans from eBay. FYI, you want to store your beans as airtight as possible - I keep mine in a ziploc bag with the air squeezed out, then in a rubbermaid container, then in a dark cabinet. Air dries them out.

In addition to the beans, you need:

1. A glass foodsafe jar (dark glass if you have it, but Mason jars are cheap and work just fine). It's my understanding that plastic breaks down after a period of time so glass is better. You want something with a wide mouth so you can fish the beans out relatively easily at some point.

2. A dark cabinet where you can keep your extract while brewing.

3. Cheap a$$ rotgut vodka, enough to fill your jar - do not waste the good stuff on this, because the vanilla will take over any flavor the vodka may have. Save your Goose to marinate an olive.

4. Patience. That's the hard part.

So to get it started, make sure your jar is clean and dry. I start a fresh batch with about 6-8 beans, depending on how generous you're feeling with your bean stash. Split the beans, toss pods and seeds into the jar, and fill the jar with vodka. Screw the cap on tightly, and stick it in the cupboard.

Every time you use a bean, throw the scraped pod into the jar of brew. If you use the pod to poach in cream for a pastry cream type product, rinse it off before you add it to the brew. You can also stick the pod in your sugar jar for a week for vanilla sugar...but then still add the pod to the brew. So what I'm saying here is use your vanilla beans as normal, but instead of throwing out the pod, you're going to recycle it into vanilla extract. Thrifty, eh?

And in between - ignore the jar. Let it sit in the dark and do it's thing. You'll notice the color deepen, and when you open it, the vanilla aroma will get stronger and stronger. How long it will take for it to be ready to use depends on your pods to vodka ratio, and how often you add more pods, but it will probably take a couple of months to get a usable strength at first. Basically, you'll be able to tell by smell and a little taste when it's ready.

I siphon some off the "mother jar" into a smaller jar to use, then add more vodka to the mother jar. In the year I've been brewing, I did sieve out the original beans and started again with fresh ones. I find the home brewed vanilla to have a sweetness to it, and a wonderful aroma.

And if you're REALLY adventurous, you can make your own lemon, lime, and orange extract much the same way. Using a vegetable peeler, carefully peel the zest off the citrus fruit (avoid the pith), add to a jar, cover with vodka, then either trim the peel off the fruit or halve and juice as normal.

Happy brewing!

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Assorted Stuff

If you're a Mystic Stitch fan, there's a really great sale at their website right now - 4 patterns for $34; they're usually $15 each. Their addy is http://www.mysticstitch.com/; click on special offers.

I'm up in PA visiting my boyfriend this week (spring break at school), and am continuing my quest to check out local cross stitch stores. I visited Just Cross Stitch in Limerick, PA this week. It's a small store, with primarily sampler/country/small stuff type patterns in stock. They did have a nice selection of Mill Hills and threads, and some hand dyed fabrics. Unfortunately they don't carry much of the style of cross stitch that I do, so I ended up leaving without a purchase.

Still plugging away at Summer Queen. Mind you, most of what I've been doing is filling in the grey shading, as well as getting some of the white filled in on the teal skirt. Whew, there's a lot of white on this one!! For now, getting Summer finished is my priority as far as stiching goes - no new projects until she's finished (hahaha).